STURGIS, Mich. (WOOD) — A bill is on its way to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk to help hospitals serving Michigan’s rural communities.

Laura Appel, who serves as executive vice president at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, said Senate Bill 183 helps smaller hospitals, like Sturgis Hospital, find a better balance between financing and flexibility when it comes to their in-patient services.

“Being a rural hospital is harder and harder because our populations are smaller, and the fixed costs of being a hospital doesn’t change based on how many people come there,” said Appel.

The Michigan Health and Hospital Association worked with the state health and licensing departments to reevaluate the state’s certificate of need law. S.B.183 would change that to allow smaller hospitals considering converting to a rural emergency hospital to run provider-based health clinics, and still be classified as a hospital overall if they have less than 50 beds.

Appel says this provides a financial security blanket in case more locals move away.

“If your population goes down, your fixed costs don’t go down, but Medicare is going to continue to help you with those,” Appel explained. “Regardless of where you are, if you’re a hospital in financial stress or if you’re a hospital that doesn’t want to become financially stressed … you have all of those things working in your favor.”

Flexibility wise, the bill will also give administrators the option to change their minds if they have second thoughts on removing those patient beds and becoming a rural emergency hospital.

“If they decide within the first five years that this was not the right decision for them, they can go backwards and decide to relinquish that designation and put their beds back online,” Appel said.